For Written Answer on : 04/05/2023
Question Number(s): 121 Question Reference(s): 19862/23
Asked by: David Stanton T.D.
To ask the Minister for Transport how port infrastructure in the State is being supported to enable the development of both floating and fixed-bottom offshore wind technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is committed to ensuring that our national commercial Irish ports are positive contributors to the ORE industry and that Ireland meets the ambitious targets of 7GW of offshore wind (2GW of which is specifically dedicated to green hydrogen) by 2030.
Supporting the development of port infrastructure is a core objective of the National Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce and the Department is working very closely with the Task Force in this regard.
In the development of port infrastructure, ports must progress their plans through a number of phases, this includes consenting and planning both which must be progressed in advance of the construction phase. To support port readiness, the Department has and continues to facilitate engagement between the Foreshore and MARA Planning Units in Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and a number of ports in relation to plans, timelines, requirements, and the consenting phase as appropriate. The first MACs are expected to then be awarded to ORE ports by end of 2023, after which the ports can begin pre-engagement consultation with An Bord Pleanála (ABP) with a view to obtain planning permission for construction of ORE infrastructure.
Under National Ports Policy our state commercial ports operate as independent commercial bodies and does not provide for direct exchequer funding. This policy has proven very effective in developing a highly competitive and responsive ports sector, where ports have continually proven to be agile in responding to market needs and opportunities.
However, the need to maximise financing opportunities for ports is recognised. To that end, the Department of Transport continues to engage with all industry stakeholders. This includes potential financing partners such as the EU (via Connecting Europe Facility), Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) – looking at viable projects, capable of generating a commercial return. The Department has also engaged New ERA to review port plans and consider the availability of financing mechanisms to support the delivery of port projects.
EU funding of port infrastructure for ORE is and remains available for ports, or terminals within ports, on the Trans European Network for Transport (TEN-T). Ports on the TEN-T network are eligible to apply for Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding towards their infrastructure developments, with the potential for up to 50% of eligible costs for studies and up to 30% of infrastructure works costs. This remains one potential source of funding, among many. The Department has and will continue to support ports in their applications for CEF funding.
In late 2021, the Department published a policy statement on the facilitation of ORE by Commercial Ports, the rationale for which was to bring clarity in policy terms and also to encourage all ports to actively engage with potential development opportunities and consider the potential being offered. In addition to the state commercial ports under the remit of the Department of Transport, it is noted that there are also private commercial ports, as well as fishery harbours and local authority port which fall under the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH) respectively.